I would like to draw your attention to the current political situation that has been unfolding in Greece over the past number of years but has now reached a critical point in recent weeks. Horrendous images are emerging from the Greek/Turkish border and from the Island of Lesvos, Samos and Chios in Greece. In what appears to be the beginning of the collapse of the contentious EU-Turkey deal, last week Turkey opened its land borders whilst Greece has been rebuilt and re-enforced it's land and sea borders with direct and dire consequences for asylum-seeking communities who are now camping out alongside the border buffer zone at Greece's’ land border, a gateway to Europe. The 2016 Turkey-European Union agreement obliges Ankara to stop migrants from crossing the Aegean in exchange for financial supports.
In November 2019, the Greek government announced that it was shutting down its “open” refugee camps on the Islands in order to establish “closed” detention camps. Conditions in the camps on the islands have proven to be deadly. The Moria camp with an original holding capacity of 3000, now holds a figure closer to 30,000 with inhumane conditions and a call from the UNHCR for a complete evacuation of the camp with Lesvos being described as “a floating prison” or “Europe’s Guantanamo Bay” as the Mayor of Lesvos has described it.
These vulnerable communities are being used as political pawns as Turkey flexes its muscles and demonstrates a clear political message to the European Union. Reports from NGOS’s and volunteer organisations are flooding social media, stating excessive and disproportionate force is being used with Refugee/Asylum/Migrant communities and NGO organisations at the land and sea borders. Violent clashes and tensions are surmounting between Golden Dawn fascists, Greek locals, Refugee communities, NGOs, and volunteers. These tensions have triggered the closure of frontline refugee services.
The Greek government has now suspended all asylum seeker applications for the month of March. A move is which is unprecedented and illegal. The criminalisation of these vulnerable communities in the name of “preserving” the European Union is nothing short of barbaric with border control measures now including shooting at rubber dinghies as they attempt to cross the seas (video footage included). I will be travelling to Greece for an extended period to work in solidarity and in partnership with several astute grassroots organisations working with Refugee/Asylum/Migrant communities in Athens and on the islands. I will be developing and delivering educational programmes with Refugee/Asylum/Migrant communities in Greece. Any funds raised; I would like to split between Lesvos with the work I will be doing with a community integration educational programme based in Athens.
To keep up to date with what is going on, I recommend the following social media sites “The Aegean Sea Report” on Facebook, and “RefuComm” again on Facebook. Both groups are well established and have access to a variety of resources, sources and updates which are quite accurate. Funds raised will go towards medical supplies, blankets, food, sleeping bags, classroom necessities, whiteboard, printer, and school bags.
An extended thank you to those that supported the last fundraiser for Refugee/Asylum/Migrant communities in Paris. The funds raised went towards some sleeping bags, pairs of shoes and food meals for over 100 minors.
Caoimhe Butterly: Inside the refugee camp (no date). Available at: https://www.irishexaminer.com/breakingnews/views/analysis/caoimhe-butterly-inside-the-refugee-camp-985036.html?fbclid=IwAR3-AuwcSPgvZLVbnhNKK4QBNI53Oh46tImdrypjpCWifBJkVoDQk-si0rE (Accessed: 3 March 2020).
Greece on the defensive as Turkey opens border to refugees News Al Jazeera (no date). Available at: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/02/greece-defensive-turkey-opens-border-refugees-200229091808379.html (Accessed: 3 March 2020).
Greece to replace overcrowded refugee camps with closed detention centres Euronews (no date). Available at: https://www.euronews.com/2019/11/20/greece-to-replace-overcrowded-refugee-camps-with-closed-detention-centres (Accessed: 3 March 2020).
New request for state of emergency on Lesvos, Chios, Samos News ekathimerini.com (no date). Available at: http://www.ekathimerini.com/249223/article/ekathimerini/news/new-request-for-state-of-emergency-on-lesvos-chios-samos (Accessed: 3 March 2020).
The EU-Turkey Deal: Explained (no date). Available at: https://helprefugees.org/news/eu-turkey-deal-explained/?gclid=CjwKCAiA-vLyBRBWEiwAzOkGVEtM4pSkicqcQL-wI_msc3gDwMa2XnE-GSBH10KiE5aQo9k90dGSShoCkFcQAvD_BwE (Accessed: 3 March 2020).
UNHCR - UNHCR statement on the situation at the Turkey-EU border (no date). Available at: https://www.unhcr.org/news/press/2020/3/5e5d08ad4/unhcr-statement-situation-turkey-eu-border.html?fbclid=IwAR3DGlmVnbm8rRD_gQJdX7L8uTmTWD1o7zyb3vAe6x_SBv72RmqxxR6LDag (Accessed: 3 March 2020).
Padraig O Riain